Updated: Oct 23
Rich of history and legends, this Venetian bridge fascinates visitors from all over the world. Let's discover this Venice sightseeing!
The construction of the Bridge of Sights
The Bridge of Sights, in italian “Ponte Dei Sospiri”, is located in Rio de la Canonica, the canal separating the Doge's Palace from the New Prison. It was built in 1602 by Antonio da Ponte, the same architect who built the Rialto Bridge. The material used for its construction are marble and white Istrian stone. It is completely closed to prevent prisoners to escape. The only two openings are the stone mesh windows on each of the two walls of the bridge.
The exterior walls of the bridge have decorations: a bas-relief representing Justice and the coat of arms of the Doge Marino. The interior is a prison corridor separated by a division in its center. This thus forms a double corridor which allowed prisoners entering and leaving to meet without being able to see or speak. It was used by prisoners who went to the court, the torture room or their dungeons. The cells were located or in the basement or under the roofs. Basement cells were also called “the wells” because of its humidity. The cells located under the roofs, instead, were called “pellets” because they were literally suffocating from the heat.
The meaning of the name “Ponte dei Sospiri”
Its name suggests the sigh of prisoners seeing for the last time Venice through one of the bridge windows. Ultimate feeling of freedom before ending their life in prison.There are other bridges with the same nam, including Oxford and Cambridge in England, Stockolm in Sweden and Frankfurt in Germany.
The new prison of Venice
Connected with the Doges Palace by the Bridge of Sights, the new prison was built in 1580 to replace the old cells of the Ducal Palace. It is organized on three floors around the courtyard.The famous Casanova was hosted in this prison in 1775. He were acused of espionage, staying there for six years before being able to escape with the help of another prisoner, Father Balbi, by making a hole in the ceiling of his cell.
Visit to the Bridge of Sights
The bridge can be admired from the outside, if you place yourself on the bridge which overlooks the Rio de la Canonica, on the Riva Deli Sciavoni. The other option is to go underneath during a gondola ride. Finally, you can visit it as part of a tour of the Doge's Palace and the New Prison.
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